No sooner did we have a plan and a shared goal that one would think could bring two people close together, something began to act on Larry in a strange and self-destructive way. First, he was fired from work.
Then, every day, he managed to run into someone who needed his help. For ten or twenty dollars, he gave them his labor for an entire day, coming home with no job.
This continued for weeks. With the little money he’d pick up here and there in this deliberately desultory way, I was able to manage to keep enough food for the children. But it wasn’t enough to feed all of us. When I pointed out to Larry that something had to be done because we couldn’t keep food on the table, he jovially pointed out that he liked popcorn. We could fill up on that and we wouldn’t be hungry.
Fine. The kids ate a lot of popcorn. In fact, I ate nothing but popcorn because I decided the kids needed what food we did have.
After a week or two of this, our VW bus broke down. We had no money to fix it. So we were stuck in the woods with very little food, no job, and no transportation.
Larry was actually having a good time. He was the “wilderness survivor,” with his wits pitted against the wilds. He would take the children out in the woods to go berry picking or to fish or just wander around. When they would return, dirty and sweaty, needing extra baths for which I didn’t have the energy, considering that all the water we used had to be carried in buckets, I was literally livid. Of course, my rage at Larry was diverted by him to the kids. Naturally, he looked like the “good guy” who just wanted to have fun with them. I was the bad guy because I wanted to spoil all their fun by making them stay clean, and demanding that Daddy go out and get a job. I was the wicked witch. I held back my frustration because I knew that if I went over the line, Larry would leave us. At this point, it wouldn’t have mattered financially, but I was terrified of hurting the children.
As it happens, I am sensitive to corn. I didn’t know it then. But after a steady diet of popcorn for several weeks, I awoke one night with a raging fever, nausea and terrible, knife-like pains in my lower abdomen. When it got to the point that I couldn’t stand it, I told Larry to find a way to get me to a hospital. He left to walk to a neighbor’s house, some distance away, and called an ambulance. It’s a good thing I wasn’t having a heart attack. I would have died before they got there. After they finally arrived and I was loaded on the stretcher, the driver actually got lost out in those sandy back roads. If you have never ridden in an ambulance over wood tracks meant to be traversed by horses or 4 wheel drive trucks, you just haven’t lived. There were potholes in some of those roads big enough to bury a VW Beetle. It was especially interesting because every bump and jounce and sharp turn to avoid trees that leapt out in the darkness sent me into more spasms of pain. Thankfully, at some point, I went unconscious.
The doctor determined that I had appendicitis. I was put on IV antibiotics and surgery was scheduled for the morning. However, by the time morning came, all the symptoms were gone except the fever. Over and over again he poked and prodded and pressed and released. Nothing. He ordered more tests, and went out shaking his head.
My white blood count, elevated the night before, was normal. He told me that, quite frankly, he didn’t know what was wrong. He would have sworn that my appendix needed to come out, but it was negative for surgery now. I was to be “observed” for several days, given antibiotics, and if there were no more signs of anything requiring hospitalization, I could go home.
Lying there alone in the hospital with no constant work staring me in the face, I realized that if I’d died at that precise moment, Larry and the children would have had a party to celebrate. I had absolutely no control over events outside of my sphere of influence, my house and children, so I had become obsessed with the little control I did have over my life. I saw this as a need to maintain certain “standards,” even though we were reduced to living in a hovel without modern conveniences. I drove the children to stay clean all the time, I drove them to help me keep their clothes washed, even though it entailed doing laundry by hand in a big tin washtub. I drove them to sweep and pick up their toys all the time, to rake the yard, to wash the dishes and keep their beds made. I was physically unable to do all this work myself, so the children had to help. I realized that I spent all my time telling them to “do this” or “do that”.
Where had all the loving and happy interactions gone? There weren’t any.
Larry complained. “You’re just too damn picky. I couldn’t please you if I hung you with a new rope,” or “quit your bitchin’, woman, you never had it so good!” He’d say this in front of the children repeatedly, so they had the perception that cleanliness was “my trip,” that I was a “control freak,” and that it was unfair and unreasonable for me to expect anyone else to do the work. Wives and mothers were supposed to be servants of husbands and children.
I was the one who was upset all the time, right? I was the one who thought that having a decent house to live in and regular meals and a few modern conveniences were necessities of life, right? And, as Larry pointed out, my demands for improvement were related to material things. I wasn’t placing the proper value on spiritual things. Loving the children and being with them all the time, sharing woodland adventures, were the “real” values. What did it matter if they didn’t have shoes to wear? They had love, right? And more than anything I wanted to love and be loved by my children. I knew I had to change something, and the only thing I could really change was me. A new and intensified program of meditation and creative visualization was in order.
I began right there and then in the hospital, and for the next few days I visualized myself as being happy. Nothing else. No attempt to change the reality. Just seeing myself happy and at peace.
When I was finally back home, it was as though the Universe was supporting me in my decision. An old fishing friend of Larry’s drove out to the house and offered him a job working on his commercial fishing boat. He made overnight fishing runs four nights a week. This paid very well. When Larry told him he had no transportation, he gave an advance on future earnings. Larry was able to fix the VW bus. Larry was happy to be back out on the water, and I was happy to be alone at night. It was a perfect arrangement for meditating. Trying to do this in the daytime with small children was impractical.
Mother had a big, blond German Shepherd at the time who managed to have an encounter with her neighbor’s Rhodesian Ridgeback one day. A litter of gorgeous puppies resulted. Since we were out in the woods and Larry was gone at night, I decided to take a pair of them to raise as watchdogs. The kids loved those puppies and they were about the smartest dogs I have ever seen. We all just doted on them. They were about half-grown when disaster struck. Larry was coming up the long driveway early one morning, just before daylight, and as he came around the curve at the bottom of the hill, his headlights passed over the dogs lying on the ground about a hundred yards from the house. He came on up to the house and woke me up to tell me that something had “got the dogs” and we would have to take care of them before the kids woke up and found them.
A few hours later, when it was daylight, we went down to see if we could figure out what had happened. I’d heard no sounds of any kind of fight during the night and no indication of sickness in either of them. When I looked at them, I was completely stunned.
Whatever had happened to them, it had been brutal and terrible. It was also puzzling. Each one of them was missing an eye, an ear and part of their lower lip on one side. They also were missing their external sex organs and had huge holes in their rectums as though some sort of coring device had been used.
What, in the name of God did something like that? There was no blood. No teeth marks. No ripping and tearing. No random mutilation. The only thing I could figure is that whatever had killed them both had done it somewhere else and had then dropped them where they lay.
Then I remembered that I had thrown away an almost empty container of rat poison. Maybe they had gotten into the trash and had eaten it? That had to be the answer. Never mind that it was less than half a teaspoon. Maybe that was enough to kill both of them. I didn’t know, but it was the only solution I could come up with. Maybe ants ate away the eyes and ears and lips? (There hadn’t been a single ant on them.) Maybe the rectal condition was because the anal sphincter had simply relaxed when they died? I had heard that this happened, though I had never seen an example of it before. At least not an opening that was about the size of a half dollar.
We buried them quickly so the children wouldn’t see them, but we had to tell them later. They were heartbroken and I was devastated with guilt for being the probable cause of their death. Naturally, Larry announced to them that I had poisoned their dogs.
When I think about this incident in retrospect, it is so surprising to me now that I created and accepted such an explanation. I want to make it clear that both dogs had exactly the same wounds, in precisely the same configuration. They were both missing the same eye, the same ear, and the same lip. There were no other marks on them to indicate struggle, being bitten, or otherwise mauled. If the parts that were missing had been “favored” morsels by some scavenger, including the action of ants or beetles or whatever, the fact that said “scavengers” had so precisely selected those areas to mutilate them in identical ways was deeply troubling. It was also troubling that no scavenger had come to feed on the corpses nor were they even covered with ants, which would have been usual.
But such is the mind that if no rational, acceptable explanation exists, it will create one by patching together any theory that will do. Talk about your “personal myth!” As it turned out, I was going to need this ability to pull down the shades against reality quite a bit as the year progressed.
We decided to spend the Fourth of July with Larry’s brother, who lived about 40 miles north of us. Larry had the night off, and we planned to get an early start in the morning.
Our house was tiny, but I had arranged everything cleverly so there was some measure of privacy for everyone, using my tall chests of drawers as both storage and dividers. This was augmented with curtains so that Larry and I slept in a very tiny “room” in the southeast corner. The bed was pushed tightly against the corner walls. There was only enough space between the side of the bed and the two chests that were our “divider wall” for the drawers to open. You had to stand to the side of them to open them, or sit on the bed itself, because there was not enough room to stand in front of them and open them. At the foot of the bed was a curtain that separated the space where the baby crib stood. It was jammed tightly against the foot of our bed with the head of the crib against the foot of the bed. This meant that only a small part of the end of our bed was not enclosed. Essentially, it was closed in on three sides. I slept on the inside against the wall, and if I had to get up during the night, I had to wake Larry up to not only move, but to help me since it was still difficult for me to get erect by myself.
I tried to meditate before going to sleep, as had become my habit, but soon realized that I could not stop thinking about all the things I wanted to remember for our trip the following day. I mentally packed a change of clothing for each of the children. I would get the house straightened up before we left. I’d been taught that you clean your house before you go anywhere. When you come home tired, you don’t have to do anything. Gradually my thoughts slowed down, and all I could hear in the tiny house were the occasional sleep sounds of the children and Larry’s snoring. I finally fell asleep.
Something woke me up.
At first I wasn’t sure what was going on. I felt overcome with confusion because there was so much outside activity going on that seemed to be rather sudden and unnatural. I opened my eyes and saw what seemed to be needles of light criss-crossing the interior of the house. I lifted my head from the pillow and noticed there was also a sort of roaring sound outside that seemed to come from all directions at once.
I thought perhaps the house was surrounded by a whole bunch of big trucks with their engines running, and all of them were facing the house shining their headlights on it. In fact, the light was so tremendously and intensely bright that I added to the theory by thinking that all these trucks must be those mud bogging hunting trucks with banks of lights across the roofs, and these were being shined on the house also.
Having come up with a good explanation, I then decided Larry’s friends had come to play a joke on him in the night. Thinking about it seemed to require great effort, and it also took a lot of effort to hold my head off the pillow.
I was overcome with wave after wave of sleepiness, and my last thoughts as I dropped my head back on the pillow were: “Well, let Larry take care of it! If he gets up and messes around tonight he will be exhausted on the drive tomorrow. But, tired or not, we are going. The kids are counting on it! He has to learn somehow. I’m not his mother, so I’m not going to point out the obvious to him! I’m going to get some sleep!”
The next thing I knew, I was waking up again in terrible pain. My back was killing me, and I realized that my position was contributing to this pain. I tried to shift myself and my face bumped against something strange: Larry’s feet! How in the world? Had he gotten up and laid back down in the bed reversed? I felt almost drunk as I struggled to sit up so I could tell him that he was lying backward in the bed. As I reached out in the darkness to brace myself against the wall at the head of the bed, my hand touched the head of the baby crib at the foot of the bed.
I realized that I was the one who was turned around in the bed!
Confusion and puzzlement; I felt completely disoriented and disconnected from reality. This was impossible for me to be turned around. I am one of those people who will sleep an entire night in the same position. And, if I do need to change my position, I have never, ever in my life, done it while sleeping. I always wake up to move. Always. Beyond that, however, was the fact that getting up from a horizontal position was still very difficult for me and I had to have help. If help was not available, I generally managed by pulling open a drawer in the dresser and using it to pull myself up. Additionally, there was the logistical problem of getting out of a bed that was enclosed on three sides by solid objects, and on the fourth by another person’s body. Sure, theoretically, I could have pushed Larry’s feet off the side of the bed and could have slid out the narrow space at the foot of his side of the bed. Even if I had been able to manage that – which was doubtful since I wasn’t that agile – how did I get back in bed in reverse? I could, theoretically, have done a “human wheelbarrow” number and gotten down on my hands and knees and kicked my feet up onto the bed and walked on my hands, backing myself into the bed. No matter how I looked at it, I just became more and more confused.
I woke Larry up and asked him to help me get out of the bed. I was in so much pain that it took some maneuvering just to do that, and as I began to move, I was hit by another realization: my nightgown was wet! I was horribly embarrassed to think that I had wet myself while sleeping. I hadn’t done that since I was a kid and all the humiliation of such an event flooded through me. With Larry’s help, I struggled to my feet and sort of tottered to the bathroom, a little “added on” room where Larry had installed a regular toilet and tub. (We had to fill the tank with buckets of water, but it worked!)
In the bathroom, I lit the kerosene lamp. My gown was wet only from the knees down. I was more confused and puzzled by the minute. I picked up the hem of my gown to smell it. It was not urine. It was water. What’s more, it was covered with the little black seeds from the Bahia grass anthers.
How in the heck did I get turned around in my bed?
How did my nightgown get wet from the knees down, covered with grass seed as though I had been out walking in the tall grass at the top of the hill on our property?
Was I sleep-walking? Was my body capable of functioning in my sleep in ways that were impossible to me in the waking state? Just what in the name of God was going on?
I had no answer.
I decided that, yes, somehow I must have gotten out of the bed, in my sleep, without waking Larry, and had gone to the bathroom. While in the bathroom, I must have dipped my gown in the toilet. Then, with the wet gown, I must have gotten back in the bed in reverse somehow. What about the seeds all over my gown? Well, I just simply dismissed that item altogether. Since I had explained most of the problem to my own satisfaction, not having an explanation for that part of it wasn’t so bad. I could easily just let that drop and sweep the whole thing under the rug.
And I did.
We made our day trip to Larry’s brother’s house and came home without incident.
The following morning my oldest daughter came to wake us up early crying that something was wrong with her eyes. She couldn’t open them. She had contracted a severe case of conjunctivitis. Both eyes were practically glued shut from pus forming under the eyelids. I heated water and soaked cotton balls and placed them on her eyes to soften up the encrusted matter so she could open them. No sooner had I cleared away all the pus and matter, than it began to form again. It was forming so fast that, within a minute or two, her eyes were “glued” shut again.
Even worse, as each of the children awoke, I found that they were all in the same condition!
I decided that they had all contracted conjunctivitis from splashing in the wading pool at Larry’s brother’s house. I got all the kids dressed and ready to go to the doctor, stopping at each stage of the operation to soak their eyes so that they could keep them open long enough to dress and not bump into the walls.
Later, the children settled in their beds with ointment in their eyes, I suggested that Larry go to a phone and call his brother to check on the other kids who’d been swimming in the pool at the same time.
Not one single one of them had any problem whatsoever.
Okay, swell. I guess that my kids were just susceptible.
The next day, my left ear began to “bother” me. It was really not much more than a “full” feeling, as though I’d gotten water in it while swimming. Having had a number of ear infections as a child – usually from swimming – I was very careful with my ears when I did go swimming. The only thing at this point was: I had not been swimming.
I ignored the ear. I had sick children to take care of. With the ointment the doctor had prescribed, they were improving rapidly.
Another day passed. It was actually beginning to hurt a bit. We went to bed that night, and I put some warm sweet oil in the ear with cotton to soothe it for sleeping. Sometime after midnight the pain awoke me and I knew it couldn’t wait until morning.
The emergency room doctor came up beside me with a cotton swab and was going to insert it into the ear canal for a gentle swipe. The instant she touched it, the explosion of pain immediately transmitted itself to my arm and the reflexive blow nearly knocked her across the room! She understood immediately that when I said it was excruciatingly painful, I was not joking in the least. I knew very well the degrees of severe pain. In childbirth, one of my children required the separation of my pelvis to deliver – utter agony – and I never once raised my voice, uttered a single cry, or did anything more than groan discreetly. In my family, pain was endured with dignity, not complaint. One certainly didn’t physically assault a doctor tending to the problem!
But this was unbearable.
I once read that Francis II, king of France, and husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, had died of an ear infection that quickly spread to his brain. Well, I can well understand how terrible an ordeal this must have been. It was one of the most painful experiences I have ever undergone while conscious! Of course, the ear infection I had while in boarding school was painful, but most of the time I wasn’t conscious. What’s more, since it happened when I was a child, I hardly remember it. I will never forget the pain of this one. It was like being repeatedly stabbed in the ear with an ice pick. The whole side of my head blew up like a balloon and I couldn’t even close my mouth from the swelling of my jaw. The ear canal itself swelled shut so that there was no possibility of drainage. Some weeks after it was brought under control, I had a large ball of dried blood and matter removed from the ear.
For the next ten years I was to be plagued with regular recurrences of this problem. I lived with a standing prescription of antibiotic-cortisone drops on hand just to keep it under control. I have taken enough antibiotics for this ear problem to sink a battleship.
The curious thing about these chronic, regular “blow-ups” in my ear was that I had no warning. After the first incident, there was no slow building of a sensation of something being wrong. I would simply wake up with the side of my head swollen, in pain. It would develop, in the course of a single day, to a critical situation that required a trip to the emergency room.
As soon as the ear infection cleared, the headaches began.
These were not just ordinary headaches, nor were they, technically, migraines. They would start as a very slight feeling of tension at the top of the back of my neck, where the skull sits on it, and the area where the neck connects to the head would swell the size of a small orange cut in half. It usually began in the early morning when I awakened. By mid-morning, I’d be squinting to block the light from my eyes and covering my ears to block out the ordinary sounds of the world around me. Everything that impinged on my system exacerbated the pain, like having a steel helmet tightened to the point where, with one more turn of a screw, my entire skull would collapse inward. Breathing hurt, light hurt, sound hurt, movement hurt, and the crushing hammer blows of my own heartbeat were unendurable.
I took aspirin, Tylenol, codeine, and several prescription drugs the doctors came up with. Nothing ever, ever, touched those headaches. Nothing. The only thing to do was to lie as still as possible with my eyes covered by a cold, wet cloth, and just try to survive until the pain ended. It usually took three to five days. After the first one, they came every month just like clockwork. I finally realized that they seemed to be directly related to my menstrual cycle and the headache came “on schedule”.
As I progressed through this period of time, another difficulty began to manifest. I was losing the feeling in my hands and arms.
This lack of feeling alternated with shooting pains that traveled down the backs of the arms and terminated in my ring and pinky fingers. Not only that, I was having more difficulty lifting my legs to walk. I was sent to a specialist who decided that I had Buerger’s Disease, otherwise known as Thrombo-Angitis Obliterans. Basically, he said, the veins and arteries in my limbs were inflamed and would be “obliterated,” resulting in gangrene. Consequently, I faced probable amputation within five years or so.
Well, swell! That’s good news! Nothing like a losing a few body parts to make your day! Heck, they hurt anyway, so cut ’em off now!
Seriously, however, his solution to this problem was to prescribe antidepressants. No kidding!
I took them a couple of times and realized they affected my thinking. I didn’t like that. If I was going to fade away and lose a part here and there as time went by, no point in starting with my brain! If it was the only part I could keep, might as well keep it working.
Besides, I didn’t trust doctors anyway. If I had listened to the first diagnosis when I was pregnant with my first child, she wouldn’t exist and neither would any of the other children.
In August of 1987, after a week-long headache, my period was, undoubtedly, the closest thing to actual labor as anything could be and not produce a baby! For the next several months, following the headache, I would develop fever and chills and almost flu like symptoms with each period. Finally, in December of 1987, my period started with this terrible ordeal, only it wouldn’t stop. By the middle of January, after a month of heavy bleeding and passing of huge clots, day after day, I knew I needed to see the doctor.
I was sent to the hospital for a D & C and a Laparoscopy. That’s a procedure where they make an incision to insert a camera to examine all the internal organs. It was a “day surgery” event, though it included general anesthesia, and after I had “recovered” sufficiently to be released, Larry drove me home and helped me to bed.
Of course, I was in pain at the site of the incisions (there were two), and I was sore on the inside from the D & C, but what really was bothering me was a deep, burning pain on my backside right where I sit. It was so painful, in fact, that I thought I must be developing a boil or something. I asked Larry to have a look.
He was as puzzled as I have ever seen him when he described what he found on my bottom: two matching circles of missing flesh – one on each “cheek” like a mirror image – exactly round, about an eighth of an inch deep, that looked like someone had just used a cookie cutter on me.
I couldn’t imagine what he was talking about so I asked him to get me a mirror so I could look myself. I did. He was right. Damndest thing I ever saw. What’s more, I could not figure out how in the world I had received such wounds. Obviously, since they weren’t there in the morning before Larry had taken me to the hospital, and were now there right after we returned, I had acquired them during the surgery. It was a puzzle I tucked away to ask the doctor about later.
When I did ask, the doctor looked at me like I had either lost my mind, or as though I must be trying to create some case for a malpractice suit. I even offered a possible solution. Maybe that new “surgical super glue” had been used and someone spilled a couple of drops on the operating table and glued my bottom to the table without knowing it and when they moved me to the stretcher, maybe it had just torn perfectly circular hunks of my flesh away? The doctor assured me that he had done the surgery and there was NO surgical glue employed in the operating room!
In the end, it is a mystery that has not been solved.
I did feel much better after surgery. The gynecologist prescribed a new medication for my headaches: naproxen sodium, a prostaglandins inhibitor. It seemed to work well enough if I took it at the beginning of the headache. If I waited until it was already going strong, nothing would touch it. The doctor also recommended that I schedule a hysterectomy as soon as possible as my condition, endometriosis and adenomyosis, would not get better; a D & C was only a temporary fix.
Whatever was wrong with me, I knew I needed to get better for the sake of the children, but I was not ready to do any more major surgery. As long as I could function, I decided to put it off.
I need to say something about the children here. When I discovered I was pregnant with the first one, I went out and bought or borrowed books on child psychology, baby care, and what not. I never took another drink of alcohol for many, many years (until all of my children were well out of diapers). I ate carefully through every pregnancy. I read only uplifting literature while pregnant, I listened to only classical music; in short, I completely devoted my whole body, mind and soul to providing an optimum environment for the growth and development of the child.
After my first was born, I suppose I became something of a fanatic about cleanliness. I also was extremely protective in the sense that I wanted to anticipate anything and everything that might pose a problem or danger to my child and worked very hard to eliminate such potential hazards. I didn’t want to dampen creativity or curiosity, so things that might be harmful were simply removed to safe, high storage, and everything that was at child level was then permitted to the child to handle. I absolutely did not believe in spanking a child. I believed that artful distraction to interesting and permitted things was preferable to an endless series of “no” or “don’t touch” or “don’t do this or that”. In short, I had amalgamated a whole series of ideas from various schools of thought and was attempting to implement them as the “perfect mother”.
I also didn’t have my children to “farm them out”. Except for one trip to the hospital, for over ten years I never left any of my children with a babysitter. I never went anywhere that I could not take them or when they could not be watched by their father.
When Larry entered our lives, he had quite different ideas about discipline, though he was totally in agreement with the “no babysitters” rule, though obviously for different reasons than my own. He was of the school that held “spare the rod and spoil the child” as the rule of thumb though certainly it was never applied that often. Since it was Biblical and was presented as the means of salvation at many levels, I gradually came to accept it as what was “right,” even though it went totally against my original thinking on the subject. But, I had discarded my earlier thinking because my life, which had been based upon that thinking, had proven to be so disastrous that it seemed only right to discard all vestiges of it, including my ideas about child rearing. Of course, at that time, I didn’t realize that the adoption of the Fundamentalist ideation was going to be even more disastrous!
I decided that Larry and I ought to discuss and codify what “the rules” were. They should then be fairly dealt with in every case, considering the age and development of the individual child. The only things I could think of that were truly important to enforce in any way were that we should not allow physical aggression against persons or property. It seemed logical that acts of physical aggression should be met by some “consequential” physical response so that the children – if they became aggressive in such ways – would quickly learn that you “get back what you give”. I then decided that I would like to find a way to teach the children that lying was not a positive thing. I knew that fear of punishment might make a child lie to protect herself, so it was agreed that telling the truth might result in some kind of restriction, but not a spanking. I also believed that striking a child in anger was not a good thing, so that any physical punishment ought to be administered in a cool state, moderately, and only on the child’s well padded bottom. Finally, I believed firmly that a child should be allowed to express their feelings without fear of judgment or retribution. I wanted to make it clear that they could think or say anything they wanted that came from inside them, even if they felt that they hated me or one of their siblings and wanted to say it, they just couldn’t act on it. This excluded “labeling” or calling names. It was okay to say “I don’t like you,” but it was not okay to say “you’re stupid”. Labeling and calling names was, in my mind, a sort of verbal violence. In short, I was trying to find a way to “support” Larry’s views, with sufficient modifications so that my own ideas could be implemented. However, once again, my intentions were soon thwarted and twisted.
The first spanking my oldest child ever had was because she refused, at the age of three, to use the potty. She would “hold it” until she became constipated and, after several episodes of having to use suppositories because the poor little thing was so miserable, Larry decided that the only solution was to spank her if he caught her “holding” her bowels. I was terribly upset by this. All the received wisdom from the different schools of psychology claimed that making an issue over potty training was very damaging psychologically. Larry patiently explained to me that if the child kept doing something that was detrimental even to their own health, then a judicious shock – a swat on the behind – applied in response to the incident would condition the child to not do it.
Fine, only we aren’t talking about dogs here. Nevertheless, the spanking over the bowel problem was mild, and seemed to work, so I accepted the idea of physical punishment being a possibility. And, as time passed, it became a norm – even if it was rare. The only problem was that, as time went by, the only time Larry administered such discipline was when the child did something that upset him, specifically, and often had nothing to do with genuine misbehavior or infractions of the so-called “rules”.
What’s more, he never stood behind any of the rules or requests that came from me and, in fact, would support the children against me in deliberate breaking of the rules we had established between us. The end result was that they learned, unconsciously, to do those things that broke the rules of order that were normal and natural in such a way that Larry would back them up against me. I would be provoked into a sense of helpless fury at being treated like a slave, servant, or worse – invisible – not even a human being by both my husband and my children. Even though I could clearly see that Larry was responsible, that he was not fulfilling his role as a moderate and fair disciplinarian as we had agreed, I knew that I had to make it clear to the children that such behavior was not acceptable. It was not healthy for a child to have contempt for their mother and what was right and to think that they could just run to Daddy and get away with things. And I couldn’t spank Larry. When I told him he was encouraging the very behavior that we had agreed was unacceptable, and that he should act in ways to support respect for their mother, he said he just didn’t have the heart to punish them. When I pressed the issue, he declared, “Okay, YOU do the discipline since my input isn’t wanted!”
There was no united front of parental authority with logical, reasonable rules that were not so mutable that they changed every day. My only solution was to spank them to make it clear that what they were doing was not acceptable, would not be tolerated, even if Larry either promoted it or permitted it.
Yeah. In retrospect, that was pretty sick. This was a gradual development, over time, and like the frog in the pan of water, I didn’t realize that the heat was being turned up on me. I was driven to behave in ways that were totally contrary to my inner nature, my intentions and my wishes.
At the same time, if one of the children did something that particularly upset Larry, like using something that belonged to him and not putting it back, he would erupt in fury and the punishment was all out of proportion to the deed. If one of the children did something in public to embarrass him, he would similarly overreact. He became verbally abusive if one of them contradicted him, and he constantly told them their ideas were “wrong”. My objections prompted him to withdraw completely from any family participation and sulk for days. I begged, I pleaded, I reasoned, I cajoled – trying to establish a “parental” relationship between us that was united, healthy, and fair. It was like spitting in the wind.
I admit that my worries about the children were excessive. I think that this was partly because of the constant overshadowing presence of the “Face at the Window” and the lack of stability of my own childhood. I was almost pathologically paralyzed whenever the children were out of my sight or hearing, terrified that something terrible would happen to one of them and I would not be there to prevent it. The only times the children were ever physically hurt was when they were in Larry’s care and I was otherwise occupied. This amounted to several broken bones, a severe scalding injury to my second child that put her in the hospital for two weeks and nearly killed her, and assorted other injuries that made me grow to distrust Larry as a guardian of the children.
To be fair, there were a couple of injuries that occurred when they were under my eye, but in both cases, I had an “intuition” that I ignored. I soon learned to listen to this inner voice. Larry never had an inner voice, or he never listened to it. He used my fears for the safety of the children as a means of tormenting me. He would take them somewhere, tell me that he would be back at a certain time, and then stay gone several hours longer than he indicated. He knew that if they weren’t back at the appointed time, or he didn’t call, that I would suffer extreme panic and anxiety, but he brushed it off as something that I needed to “get over”. Well, no kidding! I knew it, he knew it, but shoving my face in it wasn’t the way to go about it.
It was only in the unfolding of the events of my life, the emerging awareness of other lives and other experiences, that I was able to come to terms with my crippling need to keep my children as close as possible at all times; my terror that something terrible would happen to them if they were not in my sight.
For many years I have kept an on again-off again dream journal, and fortunately, this is among the dreams that were recorded. Before I describe the dream, however, I need to explain the context in which it occurred.
By the time I had finished the initial research for The Noah Syndrome, I was very nearly convinced of the idea that World War II and the Holocaust had been “created” events – and the finger pointed directly at elements of a secret power within the government. By following the paper trail, by examining the facts dispassionately, by simply observing humanity and the world at large, I was gradually brought to that conclusion. It hurt me a lot. I’m a person who cries when the flag passes in a parade or when the Star Spangled Banner is played at a ballgame. As a child, I was proud to stand up every morning before class, place my hand over my heart, and say the Pledge of Allegiance. It never stopped bringing a lump to my throat. To see that elements of the authorities in the good old U.S. of A. could possibly have been responsible, even if only partly, for that obscenity we now call the Holocaust, was personally devastating.
Once I had come to some sort of peace about it, realizing that very often, people within government do nasty things that have nothing to do with the people they govern, I still realized that there was some element of this that still escaped my understanding. The Holocaust was something else altogether. It was Evil with a capital “E” raised to an incredible order of magnitude. I was obsessed with it. I told myself that I had to look into the face of this Evil, to search the eyes of its victims for some sort of reflection of what they saw, how they experienced what they did, and how, in the name of God, any of them survived with their sanity intact. In the end, I suppose, I had some sort of unarticulated idea that if anything of truth and love could survive such an event, it would have to be of such intensity and purity that nothing, not even the gates of Hell, could stand against it. And I needed to know that this existed.
Day after day, week after week, I poured through the books, examining every face in every photograph, ever withered and emaciated limb, every haunted pair of eyes, every tender and precious babe, child, husband, wife, parent, tossed in heaps like so much cordwood for the furnaces of Eastern Europe. Page after page I turned, reading stories, personal accounts of horrors too dreadful to be spoken aloud, much less committed to writing. And as I moved through it, the horror mounted inside me like a volcano building up to explode. I realized that I was looking for a face. Not just any face. But I face I would know.
And I wept.
And then, the dream:
September 11, 1987 – Dreamed I was the wife of a “dark” (complexion) man who was going on a trip. I was upstairs in our apartment, on the balcony, waving goodbye. We had four children – one was a teen-aged boy and one was a little baby. My husband was somehow a “foreigner”. As he was leaving, he blew kisses and called to me that he loved me. I answered very softly because I was aware that there was some sort of dangerous prejudice around against “foreigners” and I didn’t want to exacerbate already hostile feelings of the neighbors. But two men in the courtyard below overheard me and saw to whom I was saying “I love you,” and they became enraged at expressions of love between me, a “white” woman, and this dark foreigner. They rushed at him with big guns and killed him – blew his face away right before my eyes and bits of his blood and flesh spattered on me.
Apparently I must have committed suicide and was watching the action from the astral realms because the rest of the dream seemed to center around the fact that I was not there to care for my children. Some powerful men came and killed the murderers of my husband, but they let our children be adopted out because they were just as prejudiced against me for being white! They didn’t want the shame of half-white children.
As I awoke, that “voice” that speaks without sound announced to me: “This is the dynamic of your last life!”
I was crying because I loved this husband I had lost so much it was almost impossible to bear the grief. He was “The One,” and I knew it. I knew him so deeply in my soul that his absence was the greatest burden I had ever faced. He was the one I was looking for every time I had awakened feeling lost and out of place. I also realized that it was this loss that had haunted me all my life; it was this hole in my heart that I had been seeking to fill for all these years.
I had never before awakened crying – that is, in the act itself, with tears already soaking my pillow – but now I was sobbing uncontrollably and Larry wanted to know why.
I couldn’t tell him.